A HANDFUL of residents along the Coonamble end of the Castlereagh River linked in to a live webinar run by the Department of Primary Industries and Environment (DPIE) last Friday morning 16 October.
The session was part of the opportunity to have input into the Macquarie-Castlereagh Regional Water Strategy, which will set priorities and a list of projects to be pursued in those two river systems by the NSW Government over the next 20 years.
Up for discussion were three documents that include the Draft Strategy and a Long List of Options, although among the list of 49 options none are specific to the Castlereagh.
DPIE says that the regional water strategy will bring together the best and latest climate evidence with a wide range of tools and solutions to plan and manage water needs over the next twenty to forty years.
As well as relying on previous reports by a number of state departments, local councils and Aboriginal communities are said to have been consulted on the Draft Strategy.
Face to face sessions are to be held in Dubbo and Blayney in late October and interested people have until Friday 13 November to make a written submission.
Some local residents have criticised DPIE for the short timeframes and difficulties in getting involved.
“The webinar wasn’t set up to allow people in,” said Don Schieb, who says he eventually gave up and joined by telephone for part of the session. “There were 16 or 17 moves to get into it – it wasn’t user friendly.”
“There was no phone number to contact so you had to register online,” he said. “Not everyone can do that.”
Mr Schieb says there are 87 or 88 households and businesses along the Castlereagh River, just in the section between Coonamble and Gulargambone who he believes are being denied the chance to have their say.
Terry Anne Plain is one resident who managed to join the webinar.
“My major concern is the short timeframe, lack of notice and it is the worst possible time for people to participate because of harvest,” Mrs Plain said. “There’s also no mention of how many people are able to attend the meeting in Dubbo and how do people without transport get there?”
“If you don’t have access to a computer it is not easy and the consultation hasn’t really included the people and towns along the Castlereagh.”
Both residents also say the combined Macquarie-Castlereagh strategy does not provide any clear direction for issues that are specific to the Castlereagh River.
“It feels like it glosses over the Castlereagh River and there’s not enough information about protecting the groundwater in the Castlereagh,” Mrs Plain said.
“The Castlereagh really deserves its own consideration – for instance there’s no mention of a review of water allocations on the unregulated river.”
“The amount of sand in the river should be part of the equation,” Mr Schieb said. “When I came here it was only a few kilometres south of town (Coonamble) and now it’s 40 kilometres out and up the Mowlma Creek.”
“They only mentioned the Castlereagh once in the thirty minutes I heard,” he said.
With the consultation process continuing, Mrs Plain says that more people need to be aware of the strategy and the management options being put forward.
“It’s really important for people along the Castlereagh to take the information on board and attend that meeting in Dubbo or make a submission,” she said.
DPIE are considering supplying hard copies of the three main documents to be viewed at Coonamble Shire office or libraries.
More information is available at https://www.industry.nsw.gov.au/water/plans-programs/regional-water-strategies/public-exhibition/macquarie-castlereagh